For the third consecutive practice session of the weekend at the Sakhir International Circuit, Scuderia Ferrari comfortably led the way, with Charles Leclerc pacing team-mate Sebastian Vettel by 0.139 seconds, with the rest of the field well adrift of their pace.
With temperatures much higher during the session than what is expected during the all-important Qualifying session later today, Ferrari continued their domination in Bahrain, finishing first and second for a third time with Mercedes-AMG Motorsport duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas 0.765 and 0.820 seconds off the pace in third and fourth.
The Ferrari chassis looked more at ease around the track than the Mercedes chassis, even with the wind playing havoc with proceedings, with early laps of Leclerc, Vettel and Hamilton, amongst others, being affected, particularly around turn thirteen towards the end of the lap.
After early laps on used tyres, Leclerc and Vettel waited until around twenty minutes remaining to bolt on a fresh set of soft compound tyres, and set times of 1:29.569 and 1:29.738 respectively to launch themselves comfortably to the top of the time sheets.
Hamilton, who earlier had to abort his first attempt at a fast lap thanks to being baulked by Lance Stroll at turn one, left it late to set his best time of the session, but the reigning World Champion couldn’t get within three-quarters of a second of the outright pace, and leaves Ferrari as clear favourites for Qualifying.
Team-mate Bottas, a dominant race winner two weeks ago in Australia, was more than eight-tenths down in fourth, while Haas F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean was the best of the rest in fifth as the midfield pack continued to show extreme competitiveness. Grosjean’s best time of 1:30.818s was just under a tenth fastest than Renault F1 Team’s Nico Hülkenberg, while McLaren F1 Team’s Lando Norris was half a tenth further back in seventh.
The first of the Red Bull Racing cars, Max Verstappen, was down in eighth having waited until the last twenty minutes to take to the track, the Dutchman 1.390 seconds off the pace, while team-mate Pierre Gasly’s troubled start to the season with his new team continued as he was down in twelfth, 0.433 seconds further back.
Carlos Sainz Jr. made it two McLaren’s inside the top ten, the Spaniard ending just 0.040 seconds behind team-mate Norris, while Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten for Scuderia Toro Rosso, the Russian’s best time of 1:31.173 1.604 seconds off the pace.
Kimi Räikkönen ended just outside the top ten for Alfa Romeo Racing, the Finn and team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi (who ended up eighteenth fastest) getting some decent track time after unrelated water leak issues during Friday evening’s session that prevented any significant running for either driver.
Behind Räikkönen and Gasly was the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen, the Dane ending 0.722 seconds off the pace of team-mate Grosjean, and 1.971 seconds off the outright pace, while the Racing Point F1 Team duo of Stroll and Sergio Pérez were fourteenth and fifteenth respectively.
Daniel Ricciardo’s weekend woes continued was the second Renault driver ended down in sixteenth, with the Australian well adrift of team-mate Hülkenberg to the tune of 0.733 seconds, with the German continuing to look more at ease with his R.S.19.
Alexander Albon was seventeenth in the second Toro Rosso ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi, while the two Williams Racing drivers rounded out the field, George Russell ahead of Robert Kubica, the duo 3.818 and 3.956 seconds off the pace respectively.
All eyes will now turn to qualifying, which will take place under the lights. Can Ferrari continue to show themselves as the team to beat and fill the front row of the grid in Bahrain for a second consecutive season? They are certainly the favourites.
Sakhir International Circuit Free Practice 3 Times
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